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_BIOGRAPHIES OF MUSICIANS._

LIFE OF WAGNER

BY

LOUIS NOHL

TRANSLATED FROM THE GERMAN

BY

GEORGE P. UPTON.

"_Who better than the poet can guide?_"

CHICAGO:
JANSEN, McCLURG & COMPANY.
1884.




BIOGRAPHIES OF MUSICIANS.

I.

LIFE OF MOZART, From the German of Dr. LOUIS NOHL. With Portrait.
Price $1.25.

II.

LIFE OF BEETHOVEN, From the German of Dr. LOUIS NOHL. With Portrait.
Price $1.25.

III.

LIFE OF HAYDN, From the German of Dr. LOUIS NOHL. With Portrait. Price
$1.25.

IV.

LIFE OF WAGNER, From the German of Dr. LOUIS NOHL. With Portrait.
Price $1.25.

JANSEN, McCLURG & CO., PUBLISHERS.

COPYRIGHT
BY JANSEN, McCLURG & CO.,
A. D. 1883.




[Illustration: RICHARD WAGNER.]




PREFACE.


The masters of music, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, advanced this
art beyond the limits of their predecessors by identifying themselves
more closely with the development of active life itself. By their
creative power they invested the life of the nation and mankind with
profounder thought, culminating at last in the most sublime of our
possessions - religion. No artist has followed in their course with
more determined energy than Richard Wagner, as well he might, for with
equal intellectual capacity, the foundation of his education was
broader and deeper than that of the classic masters; while on the
other hand the development of our national character during his long
active career, became more vigorous and diversified as the ideas of
the poets and thinkers were more and more realized and reflected in
our life. Wagner's development was as harmonious as that of the three
classic masters, and all his struggles, however violent at times, only
cleared his way to that high goal where we stand with him to-day and
behold the free unfolding of all our powers. This goal is the entire
combination of all the phases of art into one great work: the
music-drama, in which is mirrored every form of human existence up to
the highest ideal life. As this music-drama rests historically upon
the opera it is but natural that the second triumvirate of German
music should be composed of the founder of German opera, C. M. von
Weber, the reformer of the old opera, Christoph Wilibald Gluck, and
Richard Wagner. To trace therefore the development of the youngest of
these masters, will lead us to consider theirs as well, and in doing
this the knowledge of what he is will disclose itself to us.




PUBLISHER'S NOTE.


Just as this volume is going to press the announcement comes from
Germany that the prize offered by the Prague Concordia for the best
essay on "Wagner's Influence upon the National Art" has been adjudged
to Louis Nohl, an honor which will lend additional interest to this
little volume.




CONTENTS.


CHAPTER I.

WAGNER'S EARLY YOUTH.

His Birth - The Father's Death - His Mother Remarries - Removal
to Dresden - Theatre and Music - At School - Translation of
Homer - Through Poetry to Music - Returning to Leipzig - Beethoven's
Symphonies - Resolution to be a Musician - Conceals this
Resolution - Composes Music and Poetry - His Family distrusts his
Talent - "Romantic" Influences - Studies of Thoroughbass - Overture in
B major - Theodor Weinlig - Full Understanding of Mozart - Beethoven's
Influence - The Genius of German Art - Preparatory Studies ended 9-22

CHAPTER II.

STORM AND STRESS.

In Vienna - His Symphony Performed - Modern Ideas - "The
Fairies" - "Das Liebesverbot" - Becomes Kapellmeister - Mina
Planer - Hard Times - Experiences and Studies - "Rienzi" - Paris - First
Disappointments - A Faust Overture - Revival of the German
Genius - Struggle for Existence - "The Flying Dutchman" - Historical
Studies - Returning to Germany 22-44

CHAPTER III.

REVOLUTION IN LIFE AND ART.

Success and Recognition - Hofkapellmeister to the Saxon Court - New
Clouds - "Tannhaeuser" Misunderstood - The Myths of "The Flying
Dutchman" and "Tannhaeuser" - Aversion to Meyerbeer - The Religious
Element - "Lohengrin" - The Idea of "Lohengrin" - Wagner's
Revolutionary Sympathies - The Revolution of 1848 - The Poetic Part
of "Siegfried's Death" - The Revolt in Dresden - Flight from
Dresden - "Siegfried Words." 45-72

CHAPTER IV.

EXILE.

Visit to Liszt - Flight to Foreign Lands - Three
Pamphlets - "Lohengrin" Performed - Wagner's Musical Ideas Expressed
in Words - Resumption of the Nibelungen Poem - The Idea of the
Poem - Its Religious Element - The First Music-Drama - In Zurich - New
Art Ideas - Increasing Fame - "Tristan and Isolde" - Analysis of this
Work - In Paris Again - The Amnesty - Tannhaeuser at the "Grand
Opera" - "Lohengrin" in Vienna - Resurrection of the "Mastersingers
of Nuremberg" - Final Return to Germany 73-105

CHAPTER V.

MUNICH.

Successful Concerts - Plans for a New Theatre - Offenbach's Music
Preferred - Concerts Again - New Hindrances and Disappointments - King
Louis of Bavaria - Rescue and Hope - New Life - Schnorr - "Tannhaeuser"
Reproduced - Great Performance of "Tristan" - Enthusiastic
Applause - Death of Schnorr - Opposition of the Munich Public - Unfair
Attacks upon Wagner - He goes to Switzerland - The
"Meistersinger" - The Rehearsals - The Successful
Performance - Criticisms 106-131

CHAPTER VI.

BAIREUTH.

A Vienna Critic - "Judaism in Music" - The War of 1870 - Wagner's
Second Wife - "The Thought of Baireuth" - Wagner-Clubs - The "Kaiser
March" - Baireuth - Increasing Progress - Concerts - The Corner-Stone
of the New Theatre - The Inaugural Celebration - Lukewarmness of the
Nation - The Preliminary Rehearsals - The Summer of 1876 - Increasing
Devotion of the Artists - The General Rehearsal - The Guests - The
Memorable Event - Its Importance - A World-History in Art-Deeds 132-158

CHAPTER VII.

PARSIFAL.

A German Art - Efforts to maintain the Acquired Results - Concerts
in London - Recognition Abroad and Lukewarmness at Home - The
"Nibelungen" in Vienna - "Parsifal" - Increasing Popularity
of Wagner's Music - Judgments - Accounts of the "Parsifal"
Representations - The Theatre Building - "Parsifal," a National
Drama - Its Significance and Idea - Anti-Semiticism - The Jewish
Spirit - Wagner's Standpoint - Synopsis of "Parsifal" - The Legend
of the Holy Grail - Its Symbolic Importance - Art in the Service
of Religion - Beethoven and Wagner - "Redemption to the Redeemer."
159-197

LAST DAYS AND DEATH OF WAGNER. 197-204




THE LIFE OF WAGNER.




CHAPTER I.

1813-1831.

WAGNER'S EARLY YOUTH.

His Birth - The Father's Death - His Mother Remarries - Removal to
Dresden - Theatre and Music - At School - Translation of
Homer - Through Poetry to Music - Returning to Leipzig - Beethoven's
Symphonies - Resolution to be a Musician - Conceals this
Resolution - Composes Music and Poetry - His Family Distrusts his
Talent - "Romantic" Influences - Studies of Thoroughbass - Overture in
B major - Theodor Weinlig - Full Understanding of Mozart - Beethoven's
Influence - The Genius of German Art - Preparatory Studies ended.

"_I resolved to be a musician._" - Wagner.


Richard Wilhelm Wagner was born in Leipzig, May 22, 1813. His father
at that time was superintendent of police - a post which, owing to the
constant movement of troops during the French war, was one of special
importance. He soon fell a victim to an epidemic which broke out among
the troops passing through. The mother, a woman of a very refined and
spiritual nature, then married the highly gifted actor, Ludwig Geyer,
who had been an intimate friend of the family, and removed with
him to Dresden, where he held a position at the court theatre and
was highly esteemed. There Wagner spent his childhood and early youth.
Besides the great patriotic uprising of the German people, artistic
impressions were the first to stir his soul. His father had taken an
active interest in the amateur theatricals of the Leipzig of his day,
and now the family virtually identified themselves with the practical
side of the art. His brother Albert and sister Rosalie subsequently
joined the theatre, and two other sisters diligently devoted
themselves to the piano. Richard himself satisfied his childish
tendency by playing comedy in his own room and his piano-playing was
confined to the repetition of melodies which he had heard. His
step-father, during the sickness which also overtook him, heard
Richard play two melodies, the "Ueb' immer Treu und Redlichkeit" and
the "Jungfernkranz" from "Der Freischuetz," which was just becoming
known at that time. The boy heard him say to his mother in an
undertone: "Can it be that he has a talent for music?" He had
destined him to be an artist, being himself as good a portrait painter
as he was actor. He died, however, before the boy had reached his
seventh year, bequeathing to him only the information imparted to his
mother, that he "would have made something out of him." Wagner in the
first sketch of his life, (1842) relates that for a long time he dwelt
upon this utterance of his step-father; and that it impelled him to
aspire to greatness.

His inclinations however did not at first turn to music. He was rather
disposed to study and was sent to the celebrated Kreuzschule. Music
was only cultivated indifferently. A private teacher was engaged to
give him piano lessons, but, as in drawing, he was averse to the
technicalities of the art, and preferred to play by ear, and in this
way mastered the overture to "Der Freischuetz." His teacher upon
hearing this expressed the opinion that nothing would become of him.
It is true, he could not in this way acquire fingering and scales, but
he gained a peculiar intonation arising from his own deep feeling,
that has been rarely possessed by any other artist. He was very
partial to the overture to "The Magic Flute," but "Don Juan" made no
impression on him.

All this, however, was only of secondary importance. The study of
Greek, Latin, mythology, and ancient history so completely captivated
the active mind of the boy, that his teacher advised him seriously to
devote himself to philological studies. As he had played music by
imitation so he now tried to imitate poetry. A poem, dedicated to a
dead schoolmate, even won a prize, although considerable fustian had
to be eliminated. His richness of imagination and feeling displayed
itself in early youth. In his eleventh year he would be a poet! A
Saxon poet, Apel, imitated the Greek tragedies, why should he not do
the same? He had already translated the first twelve books of Homer's
"Odyssey," and had made a metrical version of Romeo's monologue,
after having, simply to understand Shakspeare, thoroughly acquired a
knowledge of English. Thus at an early age he mastered the language
which "thinks and meditates for us," and Shakspeare became his
favorite model. A grand tragedy based on the themes of Hamlet and
King Lear was immediately undertaken, and although in its progress
he killed off forty-two of the _dramatis personae_ and was compelled
in the denouement, for want of characters to let their ghosts
reappear, we can not but regard it as a proof of the superabundance
of his inborn power.

One advantage was secured by this absurd attempt at poetry: it led
him to music, and in its intense earnestness he first learned to
appreciate the seriousness of art, which until then had appeared to
him of such small importance in contrast with his other studies, that
he regarded "Don Juan" for instance as silly, because of its Italian
text and "painted acting," as disgusting. At this time he had grown
familiar with "Der Freischuetz," and whenever he saw Weber pass his
house, he looked up to him with reverential awe. The patriotic songs
sung in those early days of resurrected Germany appealed to his
sensitive nature. They fascinated him and filled his earnest soul with
enthusiasm. "Grander than emperor or king, is it to stand there and
rule!" he said to himself, as he saw Weber enchant and sway the souls
of his auditors with his "Freischuetz" melodies. He now returned with
the family to Leipzig. Did he, while at work on his grand tragedy,
occupying him fully two years, neglect his studies? In the Nicolai
school, where he now attended, he was put back one class, and this so
disheartened him, that he lost all interest in his studies. Besides,
now for the first time, the actual spirit of music illumined his
intellectual horizon. In the Gewandhaus concerts he heard Beethoven's
symphonies. "Their impression on me was very powerful," he says,
speaking of his deep agitation, though only in his fifteenth year, and
it was still further intensified when he was informed that the great
master had died the year previous, in pitiful seclusion from all the
world. "I knew not what I really was intended for," he puts in the
mouth of a young musician in his story, "A Pilgrimage to Beethoven,"
written many years after. "I only remember, that I heard a symphony of
Beethoven one evening. After that I fell sick with a fever, and when I
recovered, I was a musician." He grew lazy and negligent in school,
having only his tragedy at heart, but the music of Beethoven induced
him to devote himself passionately to the art. Indeed while listening
to the Egmont music, it so affected him that he would not for all the
world, "launch" his tragedy without such music. He had perfect
confidence that he could compose it, but nevertheless thought it
advisable to acquaint himself with some of the rules of the art. To
accomplish this at once, he borrowed for a week, an easy system of
thoroughbass. The study did not seem to bear fruit as quickly as he
had expected, but its difficulties allured his energetic and active
mind. "I resolved to be a musician," he said. Two strong forces of
modern society, general education and music, thus in early youth made
an impression upon his nature. Music conquered, but in a form which
includes the other, in the presentation of the poetic idea as it first
found its full expression in Beethoven's symphonies. Let us now see
how this somewhat arbitrary and selfwilled temperament urged the
stormy young soul on to the real path of his development.

The family discovered his "grand tragedy." They were much grieved,
for it disclosed the neglect of his school studies. Under the
circumstances he concealed his consciousness of his inner call to
music, secretly continuing, however, his efforts at composition. It is
noticeable that the impulse to adapt poetry never forsook him, but it
was made subordinate to the musical faculty. In fact the former was
brought into requisition only to gratify the latter, so completely did
musical composition control him. Beethoven's Pastoral symphony
prompted him at one time to write a shepherd play, which owed its
dramatic construction on the other hand to Goethe's vaudeville, "A
Lover's Humor," to which he wrote the music and the verses at the same
time, so that the action and movement of the play grew out of the
making of the verses and the music. He was likewise prompted to
compose in the prevailing forms of music, and produced a sonata, a
string quartet, and an aria.

These works may not have had faults as far as form is concerned, but
very likely they were without any intrinsic value. His mind was
still engrossed with other things than the real poesy of music.
Notwithstanding this, under cover of such performances as these, he
believed he could announce himself to the family as a musician. They
regarded such efforts at composition however as a mere transitory
passion, which would disappear like others especially so as he was not
proficient on even one instrument, and could not therefore assume to
do the work of a practical musician with any degree of assurance. At
this time a strange and confused impression was made upon the young
mind, which had already absorbed so much of importance. The so called
"romantic writers" who then reigned supreme, particularly the mystic
Hoffmann, who was both poet and musician, and who wrote the most
beautiful poetic arrangements of the works of Gluck, Mozart, and
Beethoven, along with the absurdest notions of music, tended to
completely disturb his poetic ideas and mode of expression in music.
This youth of scarce sixteen was in danger of losing his wits. "I had
visions both waking and sleeping, in which the key note, third and
quint appeared bodily and demonstrated their importance to me, but
whatever I wrote on the subject was full of nonsense," he says
himself.

It was high time to overcome and settle these disturbing elements. His
imperfect understanding of the science of music, which had given rise
to these fancies and apparitions, now gave place to its real nature,
its fixed rules and laws. The skilled musician, Mueller, who
subsequently became organist at Altenburg, taught him to evolve from
those strange forms of an overwrought imagination the simple musical
intervals and accords, thus giving his ideas a secure foundation even
in these musical inspirations and fantasies. Corresponding success
however, had not yet been attained in the practical groundwork of the
art. The impetuous young fellow and enthusiast continued inattentive
and careless in this study. His intellectual nature was too restless
and aggressive to be brought back easily to the study of dry technical
rules, and yet its progress was not far-reaching enough, for even in
art their acquisition is essential.

One of the grand overtures for orchestra which he chose to write at
that time instead of giving himself to the study of music as an
independent language, he called himself the "culmination of his
absurdities." And yet in this composition, in B major, there was
something, which, when it was performed at the Leipzig Gewandhaus,
commanded the attention of so thorough a musician as Heinrich Dorn,
then a friend of Wagner, and who became later Oberhofkapellmeister at
Berlin. This was the poetic idea which Wagner by the aid of his mental
culture was enabled to produce in music, and which gives to a
composition its inner and organic completeness. Dorn could thus
sincerely console the young author with the hope of future success for
his composition, which, instead of a favorable reception, met only
with indignation and derision.

The revolution which broke out in France in July, 1830, greatly
excited him as it did others and he even contemplated writing a
political overture. The fantastic ideas prevalent at that time among
the students at the university, which in the meantime he had entered
to complete his general education, and fit himself thoroughly for the
vocation of a musician, tended still further to divert his mind from
the serious task before him. At this juncture, both for his own
welfare and that of art, a kind Providence sent him a man, who,
sternly yet kindly, as the storm subsided, directed the awakening
impulse for order and system in his musical studies. This was
Theodore Weinlig, who had been cantor at the Thomasschule in Leipzig,
since 1823 and was therefore, so to speak, bred in the spirit and
genius of the great Sebastian Bach. He possessed that attribute of a
good teacher which leads the scholar imperceptibly into the very heart
of his study. In less than a year the young scholar had mastered the
most difficult problems of counterpoint, and was dismissed by his
teacher as perfectly competent in his art. How highly Wagner esteemed
him is shown by the fact that his "Liebesmahl der Apostel," his only
work in the nature of an oratorio, is dedicated to "Frau Charlotte
Weinlig, the widow of my never-to-be-forgotten teacher." During this
time he also composed a sonata and a polonaise, both of which were
free from bombast and simple and natural in their musical form. More
important than all, Wagner now began to understand Mozart and learned
to admire him. He was at last on the path which subsequently was to
lead him, even nearer than Beethoven came, to that mighty cantor of
Leipzig, who by his art has disclosed for all time the depths of our
inner life and sanctified them.

For the present it was Beethoven, whose art unfolded itself before
him, and now that his own knowledge was firmly grounded, aided him to
become a composer. "I doubt whether there has ever been a young
musician more familiar with Beethoven's works than was Wagner, then
eighteen years of age," says Dorn of this period. Wagner himself says
in his "Deutscher Musiker in Paris:" "I knew no greater pleasure than
that of throwing myself so completely into the depths of this genius
that I imagined I had become a part of him." He copied the master's
overtures and the Ninth symphony, the latter causing him to sob
violently, but at the same time rousing his highest enthusiasm. He
now also fully comprehended Mozart, especially his Jupiter symphony.
"In the genius of our fatherland, pure in feeling and chaste in
inspiration, he saw the sacred heritage wherewith the German, under
any skies and whatever language he might speak, would be certain to
preserve the innate grandeur of his race," is his opinion of Mozart
expressed in Paris a few years afterward. "I strove for clearness and
power," he says of this period of his youth, and an overture and a
symphony soon demonstrated that he had really grasped the models.
After twenty years of personal activity in this high school of art, he
succeeded in thoroughly understanding the great Sebastian Bach, and
reared on this solid foundation-stone of music the majestic edifice of
German art, which embraces all the capabilities and ideals of the
soul, and created at last a national drama, complete in every sense.

The school period was passed. He now entered active life with firm and
secure step, armed only with his knowledge and his power of will. In
his struggles and disappointments the former was to be put to the test
and the latter to be strengthened. We shall meet with him again, when
by the exercise of these two powers he has gained his first permanent
victories.




CHAPTER II.

1832-1841.

STORM AND STRESS.

In Vienna - His Symphony Performed - Modern Ideas - "The
Fairies," - "Das Liebesverbot" - Becomes Kapellmeister - Mina
Planer - Hard Times - Experiences and Studies - "Rienzi" - Paris - First
Disappointments - A Faust Overture - Revival of the German
Genius - Struggle for Existence - "The Flying Dutchman" - Historical
Studies - Returning to Germany.

_The God who in my breast resides,
He cannot change external forces._ - Goethe.


Beethoven's life has acquainted us with the pre-eminence of Vienna as
a musical centre. In the summer of 1832 Wagner visited the city, but
found himself greatly disappointed as he heard on all sides nothing
but "Zampa," and the potpourris of Strauss. He was not to see the
imperial city again until late in life and as the master, crowned
with fame. In music and the opera Paris had the precedence. The
Conservatory in Prague however performed his symphony, though right
here he was destined to feel that the reign of his beloved Beethoven
had but scarcely begun.

In the succeeding winter the same symphony was performed in Leipzig.
"There is a resistless and audacious energy in the thoughts, a stormy
bold progression, and yet withal a maidenly artlessness in the
expression of the main motives that lead me to hope for much from the
composer;" so wrote Laube, with whom Wagner had shortly before become
acquainted. Here again we recognize the stormy, restless activity of
the time, which thenceforth did not cease, and brought about the unity
of the nation and of art. The ideas which prevailed among the
students' clubs, the theories of St. Simon and would-be reformers
generally had captivated the young artist's mind. In the "Young
Europe," Laube advocated the liberal thoughts of the new century, the
intoxication of love, and all the pleasures of material life. Wagner's
head was full of them and Heine's writings and the sensual
"Ardinghello" of Heinse helped to intensify them.

For a time however his better nature retained the mastery. Beethoven
and Weber remained his good genii. In 1833 he composed an opera, "The
Fairies," modelled after their works, the text of which displayed the
earnest tendency of his nature. A fairy falls in love with a mortal
but can acquire human life only on condition that her lover shall not
lose faith and desert her, however wicked and cruel she may appear.
She transforms herself into a stone from which condition the yearning


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